Voted the World’s Best Seaside Park

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Team Information

Divisions & Entry Fees

Teams may enter one of the following divisions in either, or both, the Red and Vegetarian Red categories.

Amateur – $75
Professional – $75

Chili Cook-Off t-shirtAmateur – The talented home cook.
Professional – The chef who gets paid to prepare food for others (including restaurants, camps, universities, corporate kitchens, etc.).

Each Team Receives:

  • Two All-Day Rides Wristbands
  • Two event T-shirts
  • One complimentary Parking Pass

Public Tasting

  • Spectators may purchase a tasting kit ($12) containing bowl, spoon, six taste tickets, and a People’s Choice Ballot.
  • Kits will be available to purchase at 10am. Public tasting begins at 1pm.
  • A spectator must present a taste ticket to receive a two (2) ounce taste of your chili
  • Taste Tickets are required even after ticket buckets are turned in. NO CHILI GIVEAWAYS!

Cook-Off Schedule

  • 7am-8:30am- Check in and set up cooking areas. NO EARLY CHECK IN.
  • 8:45am-9am- Mandatory meeting for cooks at Colonnade Stage (near Pirate Ship)
  • 9am-10am- Preparation period (No heat- 1 hour)
  • 9am-10am- Santa Cruz Fire Department booth inspections. (Must have type 2A10BC fire extinguisher, secured propane tank with no leaks, and no other fire hazards.)
  • 10am-1pm- Cooking period (3 hours)
  • 12pm-1pm- Judging times and cups delivered to teams
  • 1pm- Public tasting begins
  • 1:30pm- Judging begins – teams deliver chili to Judging Area at scheduled times
  • 2:45pm-3pm- Cook-Off representative collects a second judging sample from finalists
  • 3:15pm- Teams deliver their People’s Choice and Taste Ticket boxes to Judging Area
  • 4pm- Winners announced at Colonnade Stage (near Pirate Ship)

Competition/Cooking Rules

Chili Definitions:

  • Red Chili is defined as a spicy stew containing any combination of spices and ingredients, cooked with MEAT and having a red hue (may have beans and/or pasta.)
  • Red Vegetarian Chili is defined as a spicy stew containing any combination of spices and ingredients EXCEPT meat cooked to a red hue (may have beans and/or pasta.)
  • International Chili Society cook-off rules DO NOT apply.

Minimum Chili Amounts:

  • Amateur teams are required to cook a minimum of three (3) gallons.
  • Professional teams are required to cook a minimum of seven (7) gallons.
  • Teams may prepare as many gallons as they wish.
    The more chili you make, the better your chance to win!
  • Teams not preparing the minimum amounts will be disqualified from the competition.

Cooking Times:

  • There shall be a one-hour preparation period and a three-hour cooking period.
    See above schedule for times.


  • No ingredients may be pre-treated in any way prior to the preparation period – the only exceptions are canned goods, grinding and/or mixing of spices, pre-soaked beans, and pre-cut or ground meat. All other ingredients shall be chopped or prepared during the preparation period.
  • NOTHING MAY BE PRE-COOKED. (This includes smoked meat.)

Contestants Must Supply:

  • All their ingredients and utensils (one ladle will be provided)
  • Contestants are allowed (but not required) to give away bread, crackers, corn chips, and/or other toppings to spectators. NO BREAD BOWLS.
  • For everyone’s safety, NO GLASS CONTAINERS are permitted on the Boardwalk.
  • Coleman-type stove (non-liquid fuel ONLY). Please pre-test all stove gas hose lines before the event. Using soapy water to locate leaks in the hose or fittings is recommended. Leaking propane systems cannot be used for cooking.
  • If you intend to use a table-top butane stove, you must supply a non-flammable tile-type surface to place on top of the table.
  • Propane tanks must be no bigger than 5 gallons/20lbs (typical BBQ size) and must be secured. You may have one extra tank for back up.
  • There is NO ELECTRICITY available. Gasoline is prohibited.
  • ABC type fire extinguisher. (MUST be a minimum of 2A10-BC, bigger will be accepted.) This identification can be found on the label. All fire extinguishers are to be certified.
  • A 10×10 covering/canopy is recommended. 
  • Decorations for your booth and cooking area are encouraged.  An award for Best Theme will be given based on booth theme and décor.
  • Decorations may NOT be attached to Boardwalk walls, rides, or other structures. No helium cylinders allowed.
  • All team members, decorations, and cooking assistants must be INSIDE the designated booth space. For security reasons, no masks allowed.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Will Supply (on event day):

  • One (1) 6 ft. table and 10×10 cooking area. All booths should not exceed 10×10 or 8′ in height.
  • One 2oz serving ladle
  • Two trash bags- Teams are responsible for cleaning up their cooking areas
  • One Parking Pass
  • Two Ride Wristband Vouchers for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
  • Two complimentary event T-shirts
  • People’s Choice Ballot Box
  • Taste Ticket Ballot Box


Best Chili

  • Chili tastings are blind and are judged on a point basis for 1) flavor, 2) color, 3) consistency.
  • Judges will give greater consideration to traditional recipes.
  • A judging time and 16oz judging cup will be delivered to each team between noon and 1pm.
  • It will be the team’s responsibility to fill the judging cup and deliver the chili to the judging area at the allotted judging time.
  • At approximately 2:45pm-3pm, Red Chili team finalists will be asked for another 16oz sample for the judges.

People’s Choice

  • The People’s Choice award is determined by ballot. Ballots are included in each tasting kit and may be cast by the tasting public at each booth.
  •  It will be the responsibility of the team to deliver their People’s Choice ballot box to the judging area at 3:15pm.

Most Tasted

  • The Most Tasted awards are determined by the total number of taste tickets collected by each team.
  • It will be the responsibility of the team to deliver their Taste Ticket box to the judging area at 3:15pm.

Best Theme

  • The Best Theme award will be determined by our chili judges based on originality of costume and booth decorations.
  • Chili judges will judge all booths between 12:30pm-1:30pm.


Plaques will be awarded to winners in each of the following categories:

Best Chili Winners

(1st place winners will be put into a drawing for an additional $500)

  • Best Amateur Red – 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Amateur Vegetarian Red – 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Professional Red – 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd
  • Best Professional Vegetarian Red – 1st ($150), 2nd, 3rd

People’s Choice Winners

  • People’s Choice Amateur – 1st ($250)
  • People’s Choice Professional – 1st ($250)

“Most Tasted” and “Best Theme” Winners

  • Most Tasted Amateur – 1st ($250)
  • Most Tasted Professional – 1st ($250)
  • Best Themed – 1st ($250), 2nd, 3rd

All Teams are eligible for a special prize drawing of $250!

(Head cook must be present at awards ceremony)

Thank you to our Chili Cook-Off Sponsors

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